Bozeman, MT
Jul 14-Jul 18, 2014
Credit: 2 graduate
Tuition & Fees: $777.00
Instructor(s): Jim Schmitt

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Course Description

The purpose of this course is to provide an understanding of the geology of the Yellowstone Volcanic Center, the largest active explosive continental volcanic center on Earth. To provide the necessary geologic background for understanding the geologic significance of the Yellowstone region, students will first gain insight into volcanism, seismology, geothermal activity, glaciation, and mountain building within the context of the plate tectonics paradigm. Special emphasis will be placed on understanding the controls on and types of volcanic processes characterizing active volcanic regions of differing eruptive styles (explosive and effusive). Differing tectonic models for development of Yellowstone volcanism, the history of caldera formation and related volcanic activity, landscape evolution of the Yellowstone Plateau and surroundings, earthquake hazards, the record of Pleistocene glaciation, geothermal processes and the geomicrobiology of thermal features, and implications of all of these for humanity will be investigated in detail.

Application of new technologies aimed at providing a better understanding of the volcanic and earthquake hazards of the Yellowstone Volcanic Center including use of satellite imagery, the Global Positioning System (GPS), Geographic Information Systems (GIS), and earthquake seismology will also be explored. In addition, the use of Yellowstone thermal features and their microbial life as comparative analogs for understanding the origin of life on the early earth as well as for the exploration for extinct and extant life in the solar system will also be discussed.

Students will also have the opportunity to explore how integration of various aspects of Yellowstone geology may be usable as focal points for student exploration and investigation in their own classrooms employing varying instructional methods and pedagogies.

This course will consist of 3 days of in-class instruction on campus employing lectures, directed learning experiences, and extensive use of web-based resources, and 2 subsequent days of field trips designed to explore the geology of the Yellowstone Volcanic Center. Trips will be designed to specifically examine evidence of caldera formation, differing styles of volcanic eruptions, minerals and microbe interactions at thermal features, consequences of seismic activity, and controls of volcanic activity on such landscape components as topography, soils, plant distribution, and water resources.

Physical Requirements:
Students will be expected to be able to participate in moderate intensity hikes of up to two miles across moderate to steep terrain.

Time Commitment: 10-12 hrs/day

Meeting Place and Times

MRF 8:00 am - 4:00 pm in Gains Hall, Room 050
Field Trip: Departure Tuesday 8:00 am returning at around 6:00 pm on Wednesday (includes an overnight stay in motel in Gardiner - overnight accommodation included in student lab fee).


Jim Schmitt, PhD. Department of Earth Sciences, Montana State University


Graduate standing.

Target Audience

Restricted Entry for Science Educators

Tuition and Fees

 Program Fee $237.00
 Computer Fee$7.00
 Distributed Learning Fee$0.00

A $30 registration fee is also charged once per semester.

The costs above assume that you are taking only MSU Extended University courses during the semester that the course is offered. If you also registered for courses through the MSU Registrar, the regular MSU fee structure may apply.

A $40 late fee will be assessed if payment is not posted to your account by 3 pm (Mountain Time) of the course start date (or the business day before if the course starts on a weekend or a holiday).

To learn more about tuition and fees, please see the University Business Services' Student Accounts Web page.

Required Books/Materials

  • Windows into the Earth: Geologic Story of Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks by Smith, R.B. and Siegel, L.J..
    Oxford University Press. ISBN # 978-0-195-10597-1.

You can order the text through the Montana State University Bookstore at 1-888-247-2546. Ask to speak with the Textbook Department. It will expedite your order if you tell the sales representative:

  • the course number (GEO 560)
  • the title of the text
  • that the course is offered through the Extended University

For More Information

contact Diana Paterson at or 406-994-5679.

How to Register

Register Online